THE SOUL IN THE MACHINE: BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH
Cold. Calculating. Cruel. Watch any one of one English actor Benedict Cumberbatch’s roles and you get the feeling an SS Sturmbannfuhrer is lurking inside ready to catch you in a lie. His tall, at times menacing presence, has made him a perfect fit for such roles at Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness, the enigmatic Julian Assange in The Fifth Estate and the difficult yet brilliant Alan Turing in The Imitation Game. For each role, Cumberbatch brought his classical acting training, a sixth sense for improvisation and ‘I know more than you’ attitude each character required. Now fans eagerly await his next major motion picture, Doctor Strange, to be released in November 2016.
Cumberbatch may come across as a typecast villain, but each role he chooses brings with it a chance for him to shed light on an otherwise shadowy figure, forcing us to rethink our perceptions of someone we thought we knew. As WikiLeaks bad boy Assange, he protects his insecurity with pointed barbs at those who only offer lip-service to his perceived digital revolution and as Khan, his wanton acts of destruction are driven by his belief that he was betrayed and his crew used as pawns in an intergalactic chess game.
Cumberbatch is no easy read. He refuses to subject his characters to clichés and a paint-by-numbers Hollywood version. Rather, Cumberbatch slips his way into the mindset of his roles and gives audiences unflinching, sometimes unnerving, portrayals that may not make us like the character, but at least give us a better understanding of his motives.
The son of actors Timothy Carlton and Wanda Ventham, Benedict wasn’t forced into acting, but he certainly had enough support. After graduating from the University of Manchester, he would continue his training at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, obtaining a Master of Arts in Classical Acting. While Cumberbatch would go on to have successful runs in television and movies, the stage was his first love.
Since his start in 2001, Cumberbatch has had many memorable theater performances including his role as George Tesman in Hedda Gabler, a go at 1920’s aristocrat David Scott-Fowler in After the Dance and an award-winning run in Danny Boyle’s production of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. During the latter, Cumberbatch would perform both Victor Frankenstein and his monstrous creation, a feat that was duly noted when he won the Olivier Award, the Evening Standard Award, and the Critic’s Circle Theatre Award.
On the small screen, Cumberbatch is most known for his work on the successful BBC/PBS series Sherlock, a popular show that has seen him accumulate even more awards including Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie and a nomination for the British Academy’s Television Award for Best Leading Actor.
The accolades continue to pour in with every performance, leaving no doubt to the acting talent that resides inside the boy from Hammersmith. But as the roles get darker and the budgets get bigger, Cumberbatch finds himself on some pretty interesting lists. A few worth noting: People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive, Tatler’s 2012 ranking of him as the “Most Eligible Bachelor in England” (he is now happily married) and TIME magazine’s 2014 list of “100 Most Influential People in the World”. Sexy, cool, stylish and influential… this from a man who is perhaps best known for his role as Smaug in The Hobbit series.
But for fans of the actor, and acting, in general, it is the intellectual roles that truly show off Cumberbatch’s endearing style. From the brilliant yet savage nemesis Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness to the uncompromising and socially awkward founder of the first computer, Alan Turing, in The Imitation Game, Cumberbatch is at his best when at odds with the status quo and those who simply lack the intelligence to keep up with him. These are the times when we get lost in that cold, icy stare, feel a chill from the monotone delivery of insults and barbs and look for an escape from the no-win situations he put us in. If there is to be another James Bond movie, they won’t have to look far for a villain.
But be careful where you cast Benedict Cumberbatch. While his portrayal as Julian Assange was rude and arrogant, he believed he was starting a necessary revolution. When he was brought back to life as Khan after being frozen for 300-years, his animal-like anger was stoked by the realization he and his crew were used, and while his demeanor as Alan Turing was nothing short of heartless, it was done knowing the secrecy of his mission, and bringing an end to World War Two, was paramount to saving a few lives.
In Cumberbatch, we find the outsider we can’t do without. The enemy we need to defeat a bigger enemy. The calm, albeit cold, voice of reason we may not want to hear but know we have to listen to. Cumberbatch’s style is all that and then some; a regal English gentleman classically trained and groomed for high society while at the same time capable of flipping a switch and being the necessary evil so many plays, movies, and TV shows need. In a world of hard lessons and cold truths, who better to explain why.
Written by Kevin McLaughlin for MNSWR Magazine Read the original article on MNSWR.com: http://www.mnswr.com/soul-machine-benedict-cumberbatch/